Being One’s Own Boss is The American Dream

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The post World War II corporate America confused Americans about the American Dream.

The original American dream was the promise of upward economic mobility through creating one’s own path. And, by own path, I mean starting a business.  Those farmers and merchants of the 19th century were not dreaming of climbing a corporate ladder since there were few real corporate ladders to climb.

Sometime in the mid-20th century, the American dream shifted to job security at corporations. My father and his generation – watch Mad Men to get a sense of that world – stumbled into the greatest period of American upward mobility in history.  Corporate America thrived and the American dream shifted from being Thomas Edison to working for Edison’s company General Electric.

While the corporate golden handcuffs lasted, this wasn’t a bad deal. Near absolute job security, regular raises, great benefits and rock solid pensions.  In addition, some corporations became second families. My father worked at a large pharmaceutical company. They still have reunions – 25 years after the company essentially ended through a merger. That won’t happen much anymore because few corporations provide any of the above.

Indeed, the greatest surprise of my own entrepreneurial ventures has been that I’ve had greater security than all of my corporate friends.  Reconsider the American Dream – the real American Dream.